LGBTQ History and the Holocaust

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I have found, personally, that when discussing the history of LGBTQ rights that it can lead to very different conversations. Some feel that the past is best kept there and focusing on current issues are more important. Others feel that we should use our past struggle as a guidepost for how to meet the challenges of future issues. It is important to keep in mind what has transpired so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. With this current administration, it definitely is important to know what we have gone through as we may lose all we have gained.

It is always shocking to look back in history and see cities that have more open mindsets when it comes to LGBTQ lifestyles than our own. We often believe that we have come so far and that we are more enlightened due to the small steps we have gained. Close examination of history often shows that many places were much more tolerant than today. A shocking one is pre world war Germany. We remember, all to well, Hitler’s rise to power and how it affected Jewish culture. Hitler’s view of the Aryan culture was such a narrow view of what was considered viable people that any and all that didn’t fit it must be eradicated, this included Jewish people, gypsies, Jehovah witnesses, and any LGBT people. This year marked the 73rd anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, it only seems proper to reflect on some events that happened.

Before 1914, Berlin had been one of the most open cities in the world. German penal code had prevented homosexual acts since 1871 and while it was considered illegal it became mostly redundant. Many homosexual men and women led open lives and frequented bars and dance halls. It was considered by most to be the golden years of Berlin. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a physician in Berlin at the time and the founder of the Institute of Sexology, which was considered to be the first organization in that era to promote LGBTQ rights. Dr. Hirschfeld was pushing for a reform of the German Penal code and his reform was backed by some 5,000 influential signatures. It was reported to have included the likes of Albert Einstein. Initially, this reform met resistance, but Dr. HIrschfeld kept pushing forward and even using tactics like “outing” of public officials who were known closeted homosexuals. These forced outings caused the beginning of legal reform for equality by 1920.

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January 30, 1933 that changed when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, with his appointment he ordered the closing of all venues perceived as “gay.” “There was an incredible atmosphere of fear,” the last gay survivor, Gad Beck, who died in 2012, recalled of those early Nazi months. “Things used to be happy and carefree, but now they were being persecuted. It didn’t seem like persecution to me, since the bar was still open. But they said this bar is only open to round us up. They did this again later with the Jews. They’d let them keep their meeting places so they could snatch them up.”

It was the mission of the Nazi regime to eradicate gay men. More than 100,000 people were arrested and sent to camps like Auschwitz, here thousands upon thousands perished through acts of torture and the gas chambers. The Nazi regime insisted that homosexuality was a disease that could be cured. Gay men were rounded up and labeled with pink triangles and sent to various concentrations camps, Once they arrived in these camps they underwent forced castration and beatings. They became subjects for cruel medical experiments to try to “cure” homosexuality.

In these camps they also faced homophobia from other prisoners. Rudolf Brazda, who died in 2011, was quoted remembers other prisoners saying ” Oh look, this one’s a fag.” Brazda kept what he went through a secret from everyone until 2008 when a monument was erected in Berlin for LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust. Until 1937 he had lived a happy and open life in Leipzig, Germany. At that point he was arrested for ‘unnatural lewdness’ and sentenced to six months in jail for writing love letters to his partner. In 1941, he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camps. Here he was given the number 7952 and had to sew a pink triangle to the left side of his camp uniform. Most didn’t understand why they were being arrested but had no means of retaliation due to Hitler’s regime leaving the vast populace powerless.

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“I arrived in a very big room. There was a pool there. In that pool we had to undress, and we had to bathe, naked. It was called ‘disinfection.’ In that moment, an SS officer pushed my head under the disinfectant liquid. I still had my gold chain, with a cross. It was a gift from my boyfriend. He ripped it and asked if I was a churchgoer. Of course I didn’t answer.” said Brazda. in August 2011, Rudolf Brazda died at the age of 98. Until that day, he continued to share his story as a means of warning to future generations. During these last years, he said: “If I finally speak, it’s for people to know what we, homosexuals, had to endure in Hitler’s days. It shouldn’t happen again.”

By 2012, all LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust had died. It is through their words, alone, that their stories survive. They are the teachings to remind us of what we have endured, the plights that should give us hope that this will never happen again. With the current administration rounding up children of “illegal” immigrants and putting them in detainment camps, is it so hard to believe that we are that far from this happening again. Daily we watch our rights, that we have fought so hard for, being taken away from us. Use this history as your lesson, use it to derive strength to fight, use it so that we never have to live through this again, and use it to honor those that have given their lives in  hopes of making a better future.

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Flaming River Comic-con

I know what you are thinking, this year’s Comicon was a blast, but what can I do to rock out my Queer Geek side until it comes back next year. Flaming River Con is your answer and it will be held Saturday September 22nd, 2018. This is the first ever Midwest LGBTQIA+ event for all things Queer and Geek. You need to come out and support this group.

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Founded in 2017, Flaming River Arts is a Cleveland based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to foster, showcase, and celebrate LGBTQIA+ voices and the community, and combat bigotry by increasing the visibility of marginalized persons within geek culture. Their first event, Flaming River Comic-Con, was last year with this one being far larger and is a place for LBGTQIA+ artists, authors, and vendors to showcase their talent. You can come and learn about queer history in comics, rock your favorite Cosplay, learn to Cosplay on a budget, and sit in on various Queer themed panels.

 

Their special guest this year is Los Angeles’ own Sina Grace, writer of Marvel’s solo Iceman comics. Sina has received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book. You can also take part in a host of panels about topics such as; queer comics, social activism, cosplay on a budget, queer representation in horror, and much more. There will be 40 vendors to quench your queer culture thirsts, so come thirsty. So dust off that Light saber, grab your Sonic Screwdriver, put on your Red Shirt and join the away team at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. Also to appear is Dale Lazarov, Father of the American Bara Comicsas the writer, art director and licensor of Sticky Graphic Novels. The Sticky Graphic Novels are picture based, gay character based, and sexpositive graphic novels. His fans rave that his works are “a joyous expression of male/male sexuality that, while erotic, is neither grubby nor tasteless.” Also, Dr. Ken Scheck, author of LGBTQ Cleveland, will host a panel on Cartoon 4 Change. This panel will discuss the evolution of Cleveland’s cartoon as the discuss HIV/AIDS, racism, and how the LGBTQ community interacts.

 

Here is a list of some of the vendors that will be at Flaming River Comicon. Pointless Peaches, LLC, a retail store that makes handcrafted items by the founder LaShanta Knowles. Northcoast Armor & Jewelry , their specialty is custom made chain and scale mail jewelry, clothing, armor, and accessories. She also makes her very own line of dragon jewelry.  ArtsParadis Handcrafted Jewelry  is a LGBTQ owned and operated business that specializes in handcrafted jewelry. Charlene and Jeff, owners and crafters behind the company, specialize in handcrafted jewelry.

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FRA is pleased to announce its first annual Flaming River Con! The all-day event will take place Saturday September 22nd, 2018 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. The event will be the Midwest’s first all LGBTQIA+ geek convention, showcasing everything queer and geek, including comics, zines, podcasts, art, books, cosplay, panels, and workshops. Author and illustrator Sina Grace will headline the convention. Grace has published several graphic novels in addition to working for Marvel Comics, IDW, Valiant, and more. Grace is currently writing the solo Iceman comics for Marvel.

Flaming River Con will be holding a book signing and meet and greet with Sina Grace at John and Carol’s Comics on September 21st, 6pm-8pm.

For more information, including panel, vendor, and sponsor applications, please use the contact information below:

So, come on out and support your local LGBTQ community and get your geek on!!!

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Website: www.flamingriverarts.org

 

Email: flamingrivercon@gmail.com

EIN: 82-5337147

 

Sincerely,

Flaming River Arts

 

 

Our Transgender Community: Colby’s Story

Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlations to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes anymore from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

Cleveland gives a different dichotomy of being Transgender. While most of us see Cleveland as a small town, there are many Transgender people from even smaller towns and smaller southern towns. Colby is a 39 year old Transgender man that works in the healthcare field and lives in Floyd, Virginia. Colby is also married to my sister. While this is not specifically about the community here in Cleveland, Colby is my brother-in-law, so his story is directly personal to me. While he isn’t directly aware, his journey has been one that was the seed for much of my change in thought. Things that are the closest to you challenge your beliefs most’

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Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.

My name is Colby Byrd, I live in Floyd, VA, and I am a registered nurse.

What does transgender mean to you?

Transgender to me is simple it is your body looking on the outside what you feel on the inside.

What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?

Some of the misconceptions I face are that transgender people are confused, that we only want to use the other bathroom because we are creeps, that we don’t belong, that we are gay/lesbian, that it’s just a phase. These are among a few.

How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?

For me most people don’t question my pronouns anymore because I look very much male. However, when I first started transitioning I preferred that people just ask me my name and then listen to what pronoun people who knew me called me. Most transgender people will politely tell you if you use the incorrect pronoun.

Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?

Many people who know ask what surgeries I have had, and I am ok with answering because I would rather a person be informed then create their own opinions on lack of knowledge. However, it is uncomfortable when I go to a new physician or surgeon and must explain myself because the whole purpose of being transgender is to be seen as the sex you feel you are and people tend to look at you differently when you must give that information.

What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?

Don’t treat us differently. We are who we are. Don’t be uncomfortable around me like I am going to do something perverse or that I am an alien. I have the same heart inside that I did before I transitioned the only thing that changed is my appearance and my confidence because I finally feel right. We face a lot of the same challenges as many of the rest of the LGTBQ community.

What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?

For me the hardest part of my transition has been trying to create a new past. By that I mean I live in a very small town so I don’t tell a lot of people so if I talk about my past including a previous marriage I have to remember to use the correct pronouns myself for the past and I have to be careful what pictures I post on social media and what family tags me in or comments they make so as not to be found out.

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Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person-

My days are pretty much the same as a male born person. I get up and get ready for work and go through my day the same as anyone else. The only difference is I have to wear a prosthetic to fit in in the bathroom and as I said before if we start telling stories about our past I have to be careful. I have been in transition for six years, so it is a lot different now than it was in the early stages.

What are some microaggressions that make you feel unsafe? (“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”)

Unfortunately, I see this a lot in the field I work in. I work in behavioral health and many of the people I work with are more ok with a person being gay than with a transgender person. Many of them do not know about me so I must sit and listen to them talk horribly about transgender patients and though I do speak up and try to defend them I must be careful as to not give myself away because when I do speak up too many rumors start flying and questions get asked. My bosses do know the truth and they fully support me and have said they will not tolerate any negativity against me. It also hurts the transgender community when adolescents come in and say they are transgender and you can obviously tell that it is an attention thing.

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I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans* individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?

For me just treat me as you would any other male (no flirting I’m married to your sister). We want to be treated the same as anyone else in the world, same rights, same privileges, same level of acceptance. We struggle the same as any heterosexual person does on a daily basis, so we don’t need the added stress of wondering who’s going to find out and who’s going to judge us because we did what we needed to do to be whole.

How can people best support Transgender children?

I believe that a parent can tell if their child is truly transgender or if it is just what is “cool” at the time. I knew when I was six years old that I was “different”, but I grew up in the same small town I live in now and had no idea what transgender was. It wasn’t until I was much older that I even knew what gay was and then even longer when Chaz Bono came out and I met another transgender man in my community that I finally was able to figure out what (who) I was. Let them be who they are! Don’t try to change them and if they are older transgender and have no family support be their family. Give them all the strength and encouragement they can’t find from the people who should love them most.

Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?

Yes! Every time. Most of them know that I am married to a female but that makes them say that I am a lesbian. No, I am not. I am a heterosexual male as far as I am concerned. My wife and I are legally married and the only thing we can’t do that any other heterosexual couple can do is produce children.

With the recent news of Scarlett Johansson over being offered a role as a Trans man in Rub & Tug, what are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?

The most common misconception I notice from Hollywood about transgender is putting it in the public. For me, as I know it has been with many of my trans friends, we don’t want anyone to know. Not because we are ashamed but because we are who we’ve always felt like we were meant to be. I don’t need to publicize that I am a man that used to be a woman because I never wanted to be a woman to begin with. I am a man and that’s who I want to be seen as. Hollywood, as with Miss Jenner, has made it look like we are confused and unhappy with our decisions and that we question what we’ve done. I have not questioned my decision one day since I made it.

What gives you strength day to day?

My strength comes from two places. My wife and God.

Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?

We are all human and we are all equal. No one is more or less important. Who is it hurting if my wife and I adopt a child if we can give it a better home than the straight couple who destroyed their life to start with. Who is it hurting if a gay or lesbian couple who love each other marry. I have always been a strong believer that the media makes a big deal about things and makes them more than they are. Most LGBTQ only want the same rights as everyone else. To be able to love who they want, provide for their loved ones and make sure they are taking care of once we are gone. I am not sure of any spirituality from Christianity to Buddhism and everything in between that says anything more than love one another, not only love heterosexual people, so why are we so hard on each other. Love begins with us.

 

Our Transgender Community: *Retraction*

The series I started on my blog for sharing stories of Cleveland’s Transgender community was designed so that their voices, experiences, and words could be shared with others in hopes of helping others understand. I wanted all to be heard regardless of what they said and it be unfiltered. Meaning I wouldn’t change word choice or what was said, maybe clean up grammar at most.

Some of you may have noticed that my most recent post was returning a page error when it was trying to be viewed, I apologize for that. I had to remove the post. Why you may ask, unfortunately word usage was the reason. Things that were said in the post encountered negative feedback. How is this fair, you ask? We deal with negativity on a daily basis, why should I censor when someone speaks out. I don’t believe we should candy coat our words, but I do feel if you have a point that needs to be made that you can do so without pointing a finger at someone else. As someone who is from a marginalized community being gay, Native American, and pagan, making others feel the things I have felt is not the way to fight.

I am sorry if I offended anyone be taking this post down, none was meant in my actions. As I am sure the intent of the post wasn’t to target any specific group of people. Being passionate is an amazing gift and hope you never lose it, but using that power as a means to lash out loses its effectiveness. Harness your precious gift and use it to move others to your cause. Tecumseh, Black Elk, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Sojourner Truth and Coretta Scott King are that kind of magic.